Food Choices | EL Education Curriculum

You are here

ELA 2019 G8:M2

Food Choices

You are here:

Where does our food come from? How do we analyze arguments about how food should be grown and processed? What factors influence our access to healthy food? How do we research this? What factors should we prioritize when making choices about our food? How do we share these recommendations with others? In this module, students develop their ability to research, weigh different aspects of complex dilemmas, and formulate opinions supported by evidence and reasoning as they explore the topic Food Choices.

In the beginning of Unit 1, students discover this topic by examining multiple artifacts and being introduced to the guiding questions of the module and the culminating performance task. Throughout the module, students read excerpts from their anchor text, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and they analyze video clips of the Nourish: Food and Community documentary. Students learn how to analyze the author's purpose and point of view, as well as structural elements he uses to convey key ideas. In addition, students learn how to delineate and evaluate the author's arguments by tracking his central claim, supporting points, evidence, and reasoning. Students evaluate whether the author's evidence and reasoning are sufficient and sound and consider if and how he addresses conflicting viewpoints. Students then evaluate an author's motives for conveying information and consider the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums to do so. All of these skills further students' abilities to be critical consumers of information and to be thoughtful about what is presented to them.

In Unit 2, students research GMOs and a second topic of their choice (pesticides, high-fructose corn syrup, organic food, or food deserts) that bring to light influences on Americans' access to healthy food. Students learn new research skills as they explore ways in which access to healthy food can be increased or decreased. After researching GMOs as a whole class, students choose their own topic and utilize the research skills they learned in the first half of the unit to research their topic of choice. Students then write an expository essay on how their research topic impacts access to healthy food. At the end of Unit 2, students participate in a Desktop Teaching Activity that will allow them to teach a mini lesson on the topic they research, and to participate in their classmates' mini lessons on other case studies.

In Unit 3, students analyze language used in The Omnivore's Dilemma to better understand the author's intended meaning. Students begin to consider the food choices at play in the many texts and topics they have examined and begin to formulate their own opinions about which food choice would be the most beneficial for themselves and those in their community. For the final assessment, students write an argument essay defending this recommendation. In preparation for this, students analyze a model essay, plan and draft a practice essay, and plan and draft their assessment essay.

For their performance task, students create an infographic and talking points to defend their argument. Students will present to an audience of community members in roundtable presentations.

Notes from the Designer

The Omnivore's Dilemma explores complex topics such as corn, GMOs, agribusiness, processed food, high-fructose corn syrup, fast food, feedlots, free-range chickens, grass-fed animals, organic food, local food, and seasonal food. Students additionally research more information on their chosen topic of GMOs, pesticides, high-fructose corn syrup, organic food, or food deserts. Students may be upset or may find their values conflict with descriptions of poor treatment of cows in feedlots, or of chickens on free-range farms. Students may be sensitive to the topic of access to food based on their own access to food, or may be sensitive to learn about others' experiences in food deserts. Students may also be sensitive to the topics of fast food, high-fructose corn syrup, and obesity, especially if they don't have control over the food they eat or if they or others they know suffer from obesity, diabetes, or other health-related challenges. The complex topics presented must be carefully and sensitively discussed to give students processing time and support. Speak with students and families in advance, especially those who may have sensitivity to topics discussed.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

Where does our food come from?

  • Consumers have many choices when it comes to eating healthy food. These choices relate to how the food is grown and raised, processed, or transported. The choices are complicated and varied—from processed or industrially produced food; to industrial organic food; to local, sustainable food.
  • Deepening understanding about the variety of processes and practices can help consumers understand more about where their food comes from and make more informed choices about the food they eat.
  • The choices consumers make around food impact their own health and the sustainability of the environment.
  • Choices about eating healthy food, and conflicting information about the impact of processes and practices, can present a dilemma to consumers.
  • It’s important to consider diverse perspectives and points of view to fully understand the factors that influence access to healthy food.

How do we analyze arguments about how food should be grown and processed?

  • Delineating an author’s arguments helps readers more deeply understand the purpose, point of view, evidence, and reasoning presented on a topic. 
  • When evaluating arguments, considering an author’s point of view and purpose help readers understand the motive behind the information presented.
  • Understanding motive can help consumers interpret information to make informed decisions about healthy food.
  • Analyzing sufficiency and relevancy of evidence helps readers determine if the reasoning presented on an argument is sound.
  • Authors may acknowledge and respond to conflicting viewpoints. They may include conflicting viewpoints in order to show readers that there are different views or understandings of a topic, or in order to argue against them.

What factors influence our access to healthy food? How do we research this?

  • It’s important to build more awareness about the variety of food choices consumers need to make and the impact each has on health and sustainability.
  • When researching access to healthy food, the credibility of a source is important.
  • Some of the evidence provided to support arguments about access to healthy food may be irrelevant or insufficient.
  • Information is available through different mediums, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each one. How we access information influences how we interpret it.

What factors should we prioritize when making choices about our food? How do we share these recommendations with others?

  • Consumers weigh many factors when prioritizing food choices. These include but are not limited to: whether or not to consume GMO foods, how processed the food is, whether or not it is organic, if pesticides were used in its production, if food deserts played a role in access, and whether or not high-fructose corn syrup is an ingredient.
  • When making an argument, it’s critical to provide relevant evidence and reasoning that support the claim made.
  • When making an argument, it’s necessary to acknowledge alternate, related arguments in order to show that we have considered all perspectives.
  • In sharing recommendations with others about food choices, we can contribute to building a better world. The choices individual consumers make about food has an effect on society as a whole.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the literacy block. But the module intentionally incorporates Science and Social Studies content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

Next-Generation Science Standards

  • MS-ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
  • MS-ESS3-4: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
  • MS-ESS3-5: Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
  • MS-LS2-1: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • MS-LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D2.Geo.4.6-8: Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.
  • D2.Civ.13.6-8: Analyze the purposes, implementation, and consequences of public policies in multiple settings.
  • D3.2.6-8: Evaluate the credibility of a source by determining its relevance and intended use.
  • D3.4.6-8: Develop claims and counterclaims while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both.
  • D4.2.6-8: Construct explanations using reasoning, correct sequence, examples, and details with relevant information and data, while acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of the explanations.

Technology and Multimedia

  • Online word processing toolStudents complete note-catchers and write their essays and narratives.
  • Speech-to-text/text-to-speech toolAid students in reading, writing, and note-taking. Students listen to audio (or text-to-speech) versions of texts to assist with fluency and comprehension. They also use speech-to-text technology to assist with writing and note-taking.
    • Many newer devices already have this capability; there are also free apps for this purpose.

Refer to each Unit Overview for more details, including information about what to prepare in advance.

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • The topics within this module relate to food choices. Invite family or community members to come to class and share some of the food choices that they make, and why.
  • Invite community members who may know about local food-choice options (such as CSAs, online grocery stores, local farms, farmers markets, or other resources) to come and share with the class.


  • The topics within this module relate to food choices. Invite local farmers, CSA workers, farmers-market vendors, grocers, or other food experts to come and share with the class.
  • Encourage food researchers who may be doing work locally to speak to students about the nature of their work, the importance or application of their research, and any dilemmas they may have faced.
  • Invite research experts or university students with science majors who conduct research to show students the skills they use.
  • Invite specialists (graphic designers, advertisement agents, etc.) who make infographics or similar designs to work with students in preparation for their performance task.


  • Students might travel to a local farm, farmers market, CSA distributor, grocery store, or corner store and learn about the food available in their area.
  • Students might visit local universities and meet with students doing research related to food, learning more about the research process at the university level. 


  • Have students use their infographic and speech for an authentic purpose in their school community—providing education on relevant issues (e.g., going to a local community event to share their ideas, speaking to a corner-store owner about their thoughts, etc.).
  • Students could provide an audio recording of their argument in the form of a podcast. They could create a video of their presentation, which shows the visual component while recording the audio component. They could also compile their digital copies of their presentations, create a class website to house their arguments, and share this with community members.


  • Students might further research topics present in The Omnivore’s Dilemma and research topics, such as the long-term impacts of GMOs or options for residents of food deserts.
  • Students might write letters to local officials to bring up ideas for how to bring fresh food to food deserts. 
  • Students might start a social-media campaign to raise awareness about food choices in their community.
  • Students could organize a healthy potluck for their community members, with information about how they chose the food they serve.
  • Students might start campaigns in their school to encourage school administration to provide healthier lunches or vending-machine options.
  • Students might collect and analyze data on grocery-store options in their local area, such as the farthest distance a resident must travel in order to access healthy food, or the neighborhoods with the greatest access to healthy food. Students may present this information in an authentic context, giving facts, details, and recommendations to local officials or organizations that support access to healthy food.


Each unit file includes supporting materials for teachers and students, including homework materials and guidance for supporting English language learners throughout the unit.


Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Performance Task

Roundtable Presentations of Food Choices

This performance task gives students the opportunity to present their findings and claims about food choices. Throughout Unit 1 of this module, students learn new information about where food in America comes from and analyze arguments about food. In Unit 2 of this module, students explore two topics—GMOs and a topic of their choice (pesticides, food deserts, high-fructose corn syrup, or organic foods)—and use their research findings to write an expository essay about their topic. Throughout Unit 3, students begin to formulate their opinions on what food choices they think people in their community could make in order to eat more healthily and sustainably. Students write an argumentative essay, making a recommendation for how people should take informed action about their food choices. For the performance task, each student creates an infographic, along with a 3-minute oral presentation of the argument they made in their essay. Students share their infographics in a roundtable presentation with an authentic audience of classmates, teachers, families, and community members.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts and resources that need to be procured. Please download the Required Trade Books and Resources Procurement List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
The Omnivore's Dilemma (Young Readers Edition)
by Michael Pollan
one per student
ISBN: 9781101993835
Nourish: Short Films (DVD)
by NourishLife
one per classroom
ISBN: 850075002290


Each module is approximately 6-8 weeks of instruction, broken into 3 units. The Module-at-a-Glance charts, available on the grade level landing pages, provide a big picture view of the module, breaking down the module into a week-by-week outline. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up